Ortega close to comeback as Nicaraguan campaign closes
Ortega headed the Sandinista National Liberation Front, which overthrew
Anastasio Somoza and defied the mighty United States by establishing a socialist
government aligned with Cuba and the Soviet bloc from 1979 to 1990.
Ortega, who is trying to regain the presidency during elections here Sunday,
since shed his revolutionary rhetoric -- and his olive green fatigues.
His campaign has at times resembled a 1960s peace rally, full of flowers,
and flag-waving. He now dresses in casual pants and a pink shirt and often wears a
The campaign -- dubbed "the path of love" -- has papered the country with
pink posters with slogans such as "love will bloom" and "we will build the promised
"It has been proven that love is stronger than hate," Ortega told thousands
followers at a stripped cornfield in Nindiri, just east of Managua, where he closed
his presidential campaign Wednesday in a statistical tie with his opponent Enrique
The 55-year-old leader who spent much of the 1980s battling U.S.-backed
rebels, appealed for reconciliation as his backers unfurled a large U.S. flag behind
Bolanos, who had most of his property confiscated by the Sandinistas in
1980s, is backed by the ruling Constitutionalist Liberal Party and served as
President Arnoldo Aleman's vice president until resigning to kick off his presidential
campaign this summer.
At his own rally at a baseball stadium in the nearby city of Masaya, Bolanos
Ortega's newly discovered softer side a "hypocrisy" and said that "love and peace
are bait to lure us into a mousetrap."
"We cannot forget the many times (Ortega) said that religion was the opiate
people," he told s upporters.
Bolanos' campaign has sought to remind Nicaraguans of the economic hardships
and wartime suffering common during the Sandinista regime. Experts still debate,
however, whether the most damage was done by Sandinista bungling or by
Washington's attempts to destroy Nicaragua's economy and to finance a war
against its government.
Bolanos, 73, is viewed by many as honest, but critics accuse him of remaining
silent while serving as second-in-command during Aleman's corruption-marred
The latest public opinion polls put Bolanos and Ortega in a statistical
tie leading up
to Sunday's vote.
In country where a flurry of political parties have come into existence
in the past 10
years, the Sandinistas and the Liberals combined to reform the constitution, making
it almost impossible for other parties to get on the presidential ballot.
The two dominant parities split the right to make key appointments in this
courts and federal agencies as part of the deal that shut out would-be political foes.
U.S. officials have repeatedly expressed concern about a victory by the
whose massive expropriations of properties are still a point of conflict between the
Openly supporting the Liberals, U.S. Ambassador Oliver Garza invited Bolanos
an October 16 ceremony where he handed out U.S.-donated food in a poor village.
Ortega has formed alliances with members of parties backed by the United
during the war, including Antonio Lacayo, son-in-law of former president Violeta
Chamorro; and Miriam Arguello and Joaquin Jarquin, both of whom were jailed by
But Garza told reporters Tuesday that "the appointment of persons associated
past democratic governments does not change the concern we have."
Copyright 2001 The Associated Press.